Police relocation options narrow as Nelson site pulled from process


The number of apparent options in the site selection process for the relocation of the Pine Bluff Police Department’s patrol and detective divisions is down to two – new construction or the former NAPA building at 1100 Main St.

In a letter dated Oct. 1, A.W. Nelson of The Nelson Architectural Group told Alderwoman Irene Holcomb, chair of the city council’s public safety committee, that he had been “somewhat mystified” by a site selection analysis overseen by Mizan Rahman, president of ETC Engineers Inc. of Little Rock. Rahman manages the city’s bond projects. The proposed police department “face lift” was included in the voter-approved $1.3-million bond issue in February 2011.

Nelson wrote that he had decided to “remove our building” at 200 E. 11th Ave. “from further consideration.”

“First and foremost, a purchase price for our building was used as the basis in the cost analysis; however, our discussions (with Rahman’s project team) never reached the point of establishing a purchase price for our building,” Nelson related. “Additionally, while no detailed inspection was made of our building and no request for information concerning the condition of our mechanical equipment and building systems was requested of us (sic), incorrect assumptions were made about our equipment and systems. Further, the negative speculation regarding the loss of 97 jobs caused by the potential use of our building is simply baffling considering that all of our occupants are local businesses.

Nelson touched on several other points before concluding.

“There doesn’t seem to be any need in prolonged discussion,” he said.

The relocation was a primary topic in the public safety panel’s gathering prior to the full council session, during which it was decided that the scheduling of a joint meeting of the public safety and public works committees would await the finalization of new construction cost figures. The committees intend to make a recommendation on the matter at the council’s Oct. 15 meeting. Several panelists seem to favor new construction.

When Rahman presented his assessment in a September joint meeting, the study was criticized by several committee members and Rahman was also grilled with questions.

During Monday’s public safety committee discussion, in which Rahman did not appear, Alderman Bill Brumett said he has “a real problem with the analysis.” Brumett previously called the assessment “slanted.”

After reading Nelson’s letter aloud, Holcomb described Nelson as “a very ethical man” and added, “I hate that his integrity was insulted” in the assessment formulation.

Also, Assistant Police Chief Ivan Whitfield, responding to a question, said the department would prefer a new building if such is possible. Last month, Chief Brenda Davis-Jones said the NAPA site might be best for the amount of money the city may have for the divisions’ move from the civic center’s Joe Thomas Public Safety Complex.

During the council’s business session, an Alderman Steven Mays-sponsored resolution calling for the requesting of an Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department feasibility study on moving and/or constructing a pair of pedestrian walkways over the Martha Mitchell Expressway and Dollarway Road was sent to the traffic and aviation committee for additional consideration. Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. said a similar study was conducted previously and netted negative results.

Mays, who admitted that he didn’t know what such a study might cost, said he was promoting the development because he’s looking at the city eventually regaining a population of more than 50,000.

In other action, the council approved nine resolutions that called for:

• Supporting a national “‘move to amend a campaign by joining with other communities around the country to defend democracy by amending the United States Constitution to ensure only human beings, not corporations, have constitutionally protected free speech rights.” Brumett cast the lone nay vote.

• Supporting legislation to improve sales tax collection information from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

• Authorizing the mayor to contract with Brister Construction Co. for renovations to fire stations No. 2 and 6.

• Providing for placements of costs of correcting certain nuisances on tax books as delinquent taxes and collected as such.

• Setting the millage for the policemen’s and firemen’s relief and pension funds, general purposes and public library.

• Awarding $82,500, $100,000 and $51,864 in federal Community Housing Development Organization funds for the respective years of 2008, 2011 and 2012 to the Jefferson County Community Development Corporation, which Alderwoman Thelma Walker reported the economic and community development committee approved for recommendation last week.

Four enacted ordinances:

• Closed the alley between Cherry and Linden streets and Seventh and Eighth avenues.

• Closed a portion of Parker Avenue.

• Closed part of Cottonwood Street and Cottonwood Circle.

• Closed part of North Belair, South Belair, West Belair and Belle Meade drives.

Receiving a second reading was an ordinance calling for the closing of an alley in Block 18 of Eureka Heights, Addition No. 4.

Ordinances receiving first readings called for:

• Amending the code of ordinances concerning the basis for calculating the city’s privilege and occupation tax for daycare and childcare centers.

• Providing for the rezoning of 1115 Commerce Road from residential to business.

• Consenting to the change of control of the cable television franchise.